Russia will orbit a second new generation satellite in 2016 to keep a closer eye on ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world, the Defense Ministry said, Zvezda TV channel reported.
The EKS-1 – the first such satellite of the unified space-based ballistic missile warning system launched late last year — is currently undergoing trials in orbit by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces.
The new generation satellites will ensure much quicker identification of ballistic missile launches by detecting their engines’ exhaust plume in infrared light.
The first early warning ground-based station for the new network has been built in the Altay region and it has passed state trials.
More such stations will be built also in the Leningrad, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad and Krasnodar regions.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced in October last year that Russia had started the development of a new unified network to detect ballistic missile launches, which would replace the Soviet-made ballistic missile early warning systems and feature new-generation satellites, new ground-based space monitoring stations and advanced computer networks.
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EKS-1 to upgrade Russian Early Warning System
The first satellite, EKS-1, was lifted into space orbit by a Soyuz 2-1B rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Nov. 17, 2015. (alert5.com)
The satellite is the first in a replacement constellation for its aging Early Warning System fleet, known as OKO (Russian for “Eye”).
OKO goes back to the Soviet era, a missile defense early warning program consisting of satellites in Molniya and geosynchronous orbits.
Aging Early Warning System fleet, known as OKO (Russian for “Eye”)
The system works by identifying launches of ballistic missiles by detection of their engines’ exhaust plume in infrared light.
The first OKO satellite was launched in 1972, with the system becoming operational in 1978 and fully utilized in the early 80s.
EKS-1 above and below when deployed
The aging system – and gaps in coverage due to failing satellites in the OKO constellation – has not impacted on the Russian capability, mainly in thanks to improvements to ground radar stations picking up the slack. However, replacement satellites have been in preparation for some time.
The path to the launch of EKS-1 (Unified Space System) “EKS-1 (Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema = integrated space systems)” has been ongoing for years, under the codename “product 14F142″. It will be classed as a direct replacement for OKO-1 and will be launched into a Tundra orbit – a highly elliptical orbit similar to a Molnya orbit.
The next generation nature of the satellite will mean it will be capable of picking up the jobs of around five or six of the old-fashioned OKO satellites, per comments made by a Ministry of Defense official to the TASS news agency. However, specific details about the spacecraft have not been revealed, due to the military nature of their role.
The launch was conducted by a Soyuz 2-1B rocket.
Soyuz-2-1 rocket is a descendent of the R-7 Semyorka, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 was designed by Sergei Korolev, and first flew in 1957. A modified version was used to launch the first satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October of that year.
The Soyuz, which first flew in 1966, was a modification of the Voskhod rocket featuring an upgraded and lighter telemetry system, and more fuel efficient engines. It was initially used to launch only Soyuz spacecraft; however with the introduction of the Soyuz-U in 1973 it began to launch other satellites as well.
The Soyuz-U, which remains in service, is the most-flown orbital launch system ever developed, having made over 750 flights to date, plus around 90 more in the Soyuz-U2 configuration optimized to use synthetic propellant.
The Soyuz-2 was developed from the older Soyuz models and features digital flight control systems and modernized engines. It first flew in 2004, and this is its twelfth launch.
Two variants are currently in service; the Soyuz-2-1A, and the Soyuz-2-1B. The latter variant was used for this launch, with the vehicle featuring an RD-0124 third stage engine, which provided additional thrust. The RD-0124 was declared operational on 3 May 2011.
EKS network design
The EKS network was designed to replace the Soviet-era early warning systems inherited by Russia in the 1990s. Along with new ground-based radar stations, the new satellites could fill potential gaps in the Russian early warning defenses left by the disintegration of the USSR. The Oko (US-K) early warning satellites.
The field of view of ground-based radar watching for rocket launches beyond the Russian territory circa 2010.Planned early-warning radar coverage during 2016.
Deployment of the EKS network
In 2011, a then head of the Russian space forces, VKS, Oleg Ostapenko publicly announced the development of the Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema, EKS, which can be translated as the “integrated” or “unified space system.” He stressed that the EKS was not an upgrade of the existing early-warning network, but an entirely new system.
As it later transpired, the full name of the EKS network in Russian is Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema Obnaruzheniya i Boevogo Upravleniya, EKS OiBU, which can be translated as the “integrated space system for detection, battle command and control.” In 2012, reports surfaced that the satellites comprising the constellation had been called Tundra.
The overall development of the EKS network was centered at Moscow-based TsNII Kometa, which since 1973 have overseen early warning and anti-satellite projects in the country. (In 2012, it was renamed OAO Kometa Corporation). During most of the 15-year work on the EKS system, Viktor Misnik led TsNII Kometa after taking his position of the company’s Director General and Designer General in 1999. Aleksei Bychkov served as the chief designer of the EKS network. (758)
According to official information, the EKS network was designed for multiple tasks, the main of which would be early warning of missile attack, previously performed by Oko satellites. (The final Oko satellite was launched in 2012.) In February 2012, the then head of Roskosmos Vladimir Popovkin said that new-generation satellites would be able to detect both ballistic and cruise missiles.
On October 9, 2014, the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying that the EKS network could track various ballistic missiles, including those launched from the oceans and from the countries conducting missile tests. The statement could be interpreted as hinting that the coverage would not be truly global and one map of early-warning satellite locations released in 2003 showed inevitable minor gaps in the view of geostationary satellites over the extreme ice-covered regions of the planet around North and South Pole. These gaps in the northern hemisphere could be closed by additional satellites in elliptical orbits.
Unlike previous early-warning satellites, the Tundra was reported to be capable of not just detecting and locating a launch, but also of tracking a missile to its target. Known information about the design of the satellite (with one primary and side-looking scanning sensors), seemingly confirms that claim.
With this new capability, the space-based component of the EKS network would be fully autonomous in its early-warning capacity, (which previously had to be supported by ground radar), thus cutting a precious minute or so in warning the Kremlin about a potential surprise attack. Still, the system was to be closely integrated with ground-based radar. Working in tandem, radar and satellites would be less prone to false alarms and other errors.
According to one claim from the Russian Ministry of Defense quoted by TASS in 2015, one Tundra satellite could replace five or even six old-generation satellites. The report did not explain how such a drastic jump in efficiency could have been achieved, but probably referred to a wider view angle of each individual satellite.
At least one Russian source downplayed the revolutionary qualities of the new-generation early warning satellites, instead describing the latest developments in the field as an effort to make incremental improvements in the capabilities of the observation sensors to track missiles flying along complex non-ballistic trajectories.
Apparently, the EKS network would also perform some communications functions, such as the transmission of information to the anti-missile batteries or the commands for a responsive nuclear strike by the Russian strategic missile forces. In such a capacity, Tundras could complement or even replace already operational Meridian satellites. According to TsNII Kometa, the capabilities of early warning satellites allow to convert them into an informational system for Russia’s strategic weapons.
Multiple sources confirm that the EKS constellation would include slightly different satellites in two types of orbits. At least eight satellites would comprise the constellation. As of 2014, a total of 10 satellites were reported to be planned for deployment by 2018, probably counting all backup spacecraft in orbit.
Following the launch of the first satellite in the EKS constellation at the end of 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense promised that the second satellite would fly in 2016.
Final constellation arrangement
Given a 12-hour orbit flown by the first EKS satellite, launched under name Kosmos-2510, four such spacecraft would be enough to monitor the North American continent practically 24 hours a day. In addition, two or three satellites deployed in the geostationary orbit would be enough to provide global coverage of the planet and two such spacecraft would be enough to track launches of ballistic missiles from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, from where they could reach the Russian territory. Additional satellites could provide a reliable backup operations.
According to some reports possibly based on the operation of the US-KMO network, each satellite could use its apogee path over North America for observation of missile launches, while during the following apogee over the opposite side of the Earth, the spacecraft could change attitude to provide ideal conditions for the illumination by the Sun in order to charge its batteries. Potentially, the reverse sequence could be used to monitor situation over Asia.
The main ground control center for the EKS network is known to be in Serpukhov-15 near Moscow. The exact location is near the Kurilovo village in the Kaluga Region. A new compact facility, or MKP, was built specifically for the EKS system next to the previous ground control center responsible for Oko satellites.
In addition, the existing second control center in the Far-East of Russia near the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure is also expected to be involved in the operational control and the use of the EKS satellites. Traditionally, the ground station near Moscow was responsible for early warning on Russia’s western frontier, while the center in Komsomolsk-na-Amure was watching the Eastern flank.
According to the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, the new command post will be capable of automated processing of the tracking information from the satellites. Source russianspaceweb.com